Thus jokes Oleg, the leader of an NGO in Central Asia when he plans field
trips through the region. In fact, this is almost not a joke considering
that the region is home to many radioactive dumps. This specific type
of waste, inherited from the Soviet era, poses serious management problem,
recognized both by governments and international organizations. For example,
around the Fergana Valley, in a region prone to landslides, radioactive
tailing ponds have the potential to flow into rivers and contaminate the
drinking water of millions of people. Radioactive waste exits in many
other areas - dumped in the Barents Sea, or simply abandoned in forests
and fields all over the territory of Georgia.
What is radioactive waste?
Radioactive waste is any material that contains a concentration of radionuclides
greater than those deemed safe by national authorities, and for which
no use is foreseen. Because of the wide variety of nuclear applications,
the amounts, types and even physical forms of radioactive waste vary considerably
– some waste remain radioactive for hundreds or thousands of years, while
others may require storage for only a short period, while they decay,
prior to conventional disposal. (International Atomic Energy Agency).
Types of Radioactive Waste
High-level waste includes the spent fuel from
nuclear power generation, or the residual waste from reprocessing the
spent fuel. The military also produce high-level waste.
Low and intermediate level waste includes items
that have come into contact with some radiation. This may be at nuclear
power plants, hospitals, dentists, research laboratories and other commercial
operations. Both the volume and the level of radioactivity have to be
considered – a large volume of waste with a low-level of radioactivity
presents less danger than a smaller amount of waste with a high-level
of radioactivity. For example, spent fuel (elements that have been removed
from a reactor after use) makes up less than 1% of the volume of radioactive
waste, but contains almost 95% of the total radioactivity. (Office of
Civilian Radioactive Waste Management).
Source of radioactivity
1. Produced during all phases of nuclear energy production (nuclear fuel
2. Defence activities
3. Hospitals, universities, and research laboratories
5. Mining and milling uranium ore